Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Custody rule changes upheld- Colorado

Rocky Mountain News: State


Colorado law used to favor him moving with mom, unless dad could prove it was better for the boy to stay. Legislators changed the law in 2001, and the Colorado Supreme Court said Monday the new rules put both parents on equal footing when arguing what's best for the child.

The ruling, in In re Marriage of Ciesluk, said courts must decide such custody cases based on a set of criteria set by the legislature, including the impact of the move on the child and the "history and quality" of each parent's relationship with him.

It reversed lower court decisions that sided with Christopher Ciesluk, who argued against his ex-wife Michelle Ciesluk's plan to move to Arizona for a job and take their son with her.

The Supreme Court said the earlier rulings unfairly favored the father, essentially tipping the scales against a parent who wants to move and retain custody. The mother argued such bias violates her constitutional right to travel.

The court sent the case back to trial and instructed the lower court to consider both parents - and the child's best interests - equally.

"Though the best interests of the child are of primary importance in making this determination," Justice Nancy E. Rice wrote for the court, "they do not automatically overcome the constitutional interests of the parents."

Rich Harris, a Denver family law attorney, said the ruling makes it harder to fight parents' requests to move with a child.

"For those of us who really care about kids and how much divorce already affects kids," he said, "this is going to be a step backwards."

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